Saturday, October 15, 2011

999 and other Tax Plans that will never happen

Presidential Candidate Herman Cain, whom I dislike less than Rick Perry and probably less than Mitt Romney, has been talking a lot about his 999 tax plan.  In short, he'd like to replace nearly all federal taxes with a 9% sales tax, a 9% income tax, and a 9% corporate tax, all of which he'd greatly reduce any deductions and exemptions for in the attempt at rough revenue neutrality.

I give him credit for recognizing that our current tax system is an abomination, dragged up from the hells of complexity that the Elders of the Second Sigma find congenial.  It is precisely because these Elders of the Second Sigma, as represented by lobbyists, tax attorneys, lawyers, et al are so invested in the complexity of the tax system that I predict nothing of the sort will happen on this side of a total collapse of governmental legitimacy and authority.  In their attempt to defend the infernal complexity of the existing system, they benefit from the Fundamental Theorem of Reaction---which is to say that any significant change WILL have winners and losers, and if you control the cultural battlespace, it is easy to provide a parade of sympathetic losers and implicitly demand that no change be made unless it is actually perfect, with no losers.  Reactionaries know that this is impossible, and generally view this practice with contempt, but it wins elections and useful idiots.

But, since we're on the topic of taxation, let me present---only half-jokingly---a proposed Jehu tax plan.  My prediction is that rich neurotypicals, like present day Americans, will loathe this plan because of its open and transactional nature.  Here it is:
Create a ladder of classes, possibly even several ladders that branch off the first ladder.  For instance, your ladder might look like this

Lower lower class, middle lower class, upper lower class, lower middle class, middle middle class, upper middle class, lower upper class, middle upper class, and a ton of flavors of upper upper class.

This class ranking would be 100% A-OK for discrimination.  You could have neighborhoods that living in them required class X or lower, class Y only, or class Z or higher.  There would also be perks associated with upper classes, like the police would ACTUALLY bother to investigate identity theft claims you made if you were of class X or higher, for instance.  You'd also have a few sumptuary laws as well, so you could effortlessly display what class you were for the social and romantic marketplaces.

Now for the tax.  You, the taxpayer decide what class you want to be for the next year.  Your net payment to the treasury determines what class you're going to be rated as---perhaps with a sliding window function covering the past decade or so.  And there you have it, a tax system that has very low complexity and requires next to nothing in the way of auditors.  In addition, it acknowledges the fact that there is a hunger for discrimination---such is just inherent in our status-seeking natures--and chains it to a useful purpose.  It also makes status displays a lot less subtle and costly.  Everything is pretty transparent and above the board.  Historically speaking, this isn't even all that odd of a tax system---it's like a head tax where the upper classes have a surcharge.  I predict this same transparency and open nature would cause most neurotypicals to run screaming in terror.


AC said...

This sounds like applied Confucianism - another philosophy that said people will form hierarchies, so let's not pretend otherwise. But let's tie status to obligations towards your inferiors, so at least status-seeking does some pro-social work.

Both are a much better solution than the modern one of "let's pretend to be egalitarian, and let the high status get away with everything."

Jehu said...

Yes, we like to pretend that the US is a classless society, but that's clearly not true. Both of us would prefer that groups pay for the perks they receive and receive those perks that they actually pay for.

But the tax system I described is the sort of wealth tax that prevailed in much of the world prior to the availability of hordes of scribes and accountants. So it's a bit of back to the future.

Anonymous said...

I like your idea, in theory.

As you acknowledge, today's Multicultacracies, by their nature, would simply never allow it to work:

Remember "block-busting"? Year-0: A prosperous white neighborhood exists. Year-1: A few Black families move in. Year-3: More Blacks have followed the initial settlers. The neighborhood is now 15% Black. Year-7: Soaring crime causes a steady white exodus, and more Blacks flow in. The neighborhood has tipped to 55% Black. Year-15: The last of the whites with the means to leave have long since left. The neighborhood is 90% Black.

The appeal of the initial prosperity, that caused neighborhoods to tip from white to black in the '60s and '70s, would be the same in this class-tax system in which where one lived were to be determined by self-declared class. No one wants to live in most Nonwhite neighborhoods, so enough Nonwhites would start declaring themselves "upper-class" or whatever to move into the good [white] neighborhoods, and block-busting would repeat. Eventually, being legally-"upper-class" would be a nightmare! Would it not?

Jehu said...

To become 'upper class' would require you to pay upper class taxes each year. So you'd effectively have a lot of the same barriers to entry to your neighborhoods that you have today---they just wouldn't have to be expensive as well.